You might not know it by looking at the picture above, but my dad was an intense guy—an Irish Catholic, hockey-loving, ex-military kind of guy. He died young, but not without leaving me with a few vital lessons about life—and heavy machinery, things I think every daughter should learn from her dad. Here are the top five:
1. Chainsaw operation. You really can’t learn enough about how to properly use a chainsaw. Sure, we all threaten our kids with the possibility of ”losing an eye” if they swing a golf club willy-nilly in the backyard, but you can seriously lose half of your face if you don’t mind the kick on a chainsaw when you’re splitting logs.
2. How to take a swing. My dad taught me how to swing a baseball bat and a golf club, and even how to take a decent slap shot and throw a punch. In turn, I’ve passed theses essential lessons on to my daughter, with only slightly more patience than my father had teaching them to me. It boils down to this: “Keep your eye on the ball, dammit.”
3. How to check the oil in the family station wagon. Car engine oil is NOT pink. That’s transmission fluid, dummy.
4. Don’t be afraid “to piss with the big dogs.” My dad was known for his “sayings,” but used this one sparingly, when only encouragement would do, like when I told him I wanted to go to graduate school. As a first generation college graduate, my dad found the idea of “extra college” for a girl interesting—and perplexing: Why would I, a future housewife, need that much education?
5. Work hard. Work very, very hard. The path to hell is paved with … laziness. Next to communists and Democrats, lazy people are the worst. Some folks just need a little kick in the pants to get them going, and my dad was happy to, er, kick that off.
Happy Father’s Day, dads!
Where once the shelves in my office were filled with books of poetry and 19th-century British novels, there is now a growing collection of arts and craft books. A lot of what I have, though, isn’t totally appropriate for a 7-year-old—like the books I have on casting resin and manipulating plastic at high temperatures.
Needless to say, I’m always keen to find a solid craft book that offers projects that are fun for grown-ups and kids. I’ve come across three recently: Two that are definitely worth checking out of the library and one that, if you like painting that doesn’t require technical skill or training, you might just want to buy.
The first: Side by Side: 20 Collaborative Projects for Crafting with Your Kids by Tsia Carson is definitely worth checking out of the library. What I like most about book: The introduction. Carson writes on p. 10, “Crafting is an opportunity to slow down and spend time with my daughter. I know that, for some parents, this ability to slow down comes more naturally. In my life, I struggle to ignore the various calls of duty: work, straightening up, making dinner, or running errands. I am always rushing my daughter.”
That’s not to say Carson’s projects aren’t well-detailed and clearly presented—they are—but I so get her motivation for the book and the drive to connect with her daughter in a way that keeps her in the moment, not distracted by her to-do list, that I almost wished she’d just kept writing about that topic. That said, I particularly like the Giant Newspaper Snowflake project and the Pom-Pom Garland from part one of the book titled “Collaborators.”
Part two wasn’t as inspiring as part one, mostly because I have to really be in the mood to sew, and there were a couple sewing projects, like handmade pillows and embroidering leaves. The third and final part of the book maps out four family-size projects, including a giant spider web you can make with kitchen twine and my favorite, the autumn crown–a fairy-inspired headdress decorated with leaves. All of Carson’s projects are easy to make but can scale to any skill level. She also builds projects from the supplies you typically have around the house, so you don’t have to buy much of anything to start creating.
Crafting Fun: 101 Things to Make and Do with Kids by Rae Grant is organized by season, which makes it a great rainy day resource you might want on your shelves permanently. As you can tell by the title, there are more than enough projects, and they’re all pretty uncomplicated. You’ll find many old standards, like wax paper leaves, cut-paper garlands, and pressed flowers, in addition to more intricate offerings like snow globes, kite making, and piñatas. Grant’s projects, like Carson’s, can either scale to the age of kids you’re working with, or you can choose a more age-appropriate craft from the many in this book.
While you won’t find step-by-step photos to show you a project’s stages of creation, the directions are clear and well-written. I personally prefer photos of finished objects to the vintage illustrations that decorate the book, but if you’re looking for a solid guide to traditional crafts, check out Crafting Fun.
Drawing and Painting Imaginary Animals: A Mixed-Media Workshop by Carla Sonheim is a really fun book that so gracefully imparts instruction on drawing and painting that you don’t even notice you’re learning something.
Both experienced and inexperienced artists will enjoy Sobheim’s whimsical mixed-media animal creations. And while her book isn’t designed with children in mind, my daughter picked it up immediately and started illustrating. The interesting animal shapes she creates will easily intrigue most kids, while the exercises in the book will free up any frustrated artist—grownup or kid—to just put something on paper.
What I really enjoy about the book is how Sonheim starts with imagination, not drawing principles or technical information. Each chapter outlines a specific activity that you can do just by following her easy directions. Start by finding shapes, animal shapes, in the sidewalk, on leaves, in trees, and just about anywhere, and start sketching those shapes in a notebook. From there, add features to your “blobimals,” such as color and depth. Sonheim then walks you through different techniques, like drawing with an eraser to create shading, layering with newspaper to add dimension, and adding watercolor to create life.
Overall, this is a unique book that can inspire kids and adults to start creating in short, manageable chapters.
Is being seen buying cigarettes really worse than getting caught buying meth at the park?
I live in Seattle, where smoking is about as socially acceptable as kicking kittens. You just don’t do it in public, and if you do, everyone thinks you’re a terrible person — unless you’re drunk or at a bachelorette party–or both.
And if you’re a mom? Well, just go get all of your cut-off t-shirts printed with “Classless moron” on them, because that’s what everyone will be thinking anyway. Nobody actually says that, of course, but they’re thinking it. This is Seattle, after all.
Last fall, my mom came to visit me. She’s a smoker — and has been for close to 50 years. And while she’s developed a pretty nasty cough over the last few years, she’s otherwise remarkably healthy for age 72. In fact, one of the few things my siblings and I agree on is that our mother is likely to outlive us all.
She smoked while she was pregnant with all three of her children. And except for my sister, who was a couple weeks premature, we all turned out OK. Sure, none of us weighed more than 6 lbs. at birth, but this was also back in the day when pregnant women weren’t arrested for having an occasional glass of wine at dinner or a cigarette now and then.
She’s tried to quit several times, but appears to have given up entirely on the idea of ever being smoke-free.
“What’s the point now?” she says.
I can’t argue with that. Quitting would probably kill her faster than smoking for another 20 years. She smokes less than she used to, and actually doesn’t smoke around any of us kids or her grandkids. She’ll go outside or behind a closed door — and then claim she wasn’t smoking.
When my 7-year-old daughter saw her smoking for the first time, she stormed into my bedroom and announced with great indignation, “Grandma Jo-Jo is smoking.”
And then: “Are the police going to come?”
The kicker, as mom likes to say, was when she asked me to pick up a pack of cigarettes for her at the corner store. The carton she traveled with had finally run dry.
“Hey, Kris, if I give you a twenty, can you run to the store and get me a pack of cigarettes?”
This was asked while she stood next to the picket fence that wraps around my house, the one she’d spent several days cleaning and painting. My mom can’t sit still, so to keep busy, she hand-washed my fence and then painted most of it. And she did it all while I was at work, so each day I returned to see a brighter, cleaner fence.
And yet, all I could think was, Buy cigarettes? In public? I’d rather be caught buying meth at the park.
Truth is, I was stunned. I hadn’t bought cigarettes at a store in maybe 15 years. I actually had to think about whether I could even buy them at a store anymore.
I ended up driving to a convenience store in another neighborhood.
Once inside, I scanned the mini-mart aisles to make sure I didn’t see any one I knew before approaching the counter. “A pack of Marlboro Lights,” I mumbled, while looking intently at my shoes. And then, without anyone asking, I added, “They’re for my mom.”
The cashier replied, “Nine dollars, please.”
“Nine dollars?! When did that happen?” Surely my outrage at the cost of cigarettes proved that I wasn’t a smoker, I thought to myself. The cashier only snapped her gum and offered, “Second highest to New York, I believe.”
I stuffed the cigs in my bag and drove home, where I handed my mom her cigarettes, enough to last until her flight home the following day.
I kept the change.
Originally published on Mom to Mom, MSN’s awesome new mom blog.